Tacoma Run Down

It’s hard to understand what goes through people’s minds. Is it that they believe themselves invincible? Is it some combination of immaturity and certainty that makes them believe this is a worthy thing to do? It’s bad enough when protesters, if that’s what they are, block a car driving down the street. Cars get to drive down public streets, even if protesters don’t want them to. Protesters do not get to damage the cars, threaten their occupants, even if protesters want to.

But when it’s a police car, another factor comes into play. The police car, and the cop inside, is on the road for a public purpose. Yes, the protesters don’t want that to be so, but not even a crowd of 100 protesters gets dictate how society functions for the rest of society. Cops’ existence may offend them, but that’s not their choice. And the cop is placed in a quandary. Does he do his job, which is not to be dictated by people in the street, or does he allow his job to be controlled by the protesters, who have decided to surround the car, pound on the car, block the car and, thus, control the cop?

Tacoma police spokeswoman Wendy Haddow said police were notified shortly before 7 p.m. Saturday of street racers and a crowd of approximately 100 people blocking streets in the area.

Haddow said the officer used his car’s bullhorn to address the crowd. The crowd then began pounding on his windows, she said.

“He was afraid they would break his glass,” she said. That prompted him to speed out of the scene for his own safety.

Video of the unnamed officer is shocking.

The video doesn’t show people pounding on the windows of the police car, though that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. There is no sound of the officer telling people to get out of the way or he will run them down, though that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen either. But what it shows, in excruciating detail, is that the cop backed up a bit, revved the engine and, at a rate of speed that says he had no plan to stop, plow through the crowd.

There is no question that the law does not allow the taking of life for the protection of property, a balance used by protesters, rioters, people hanging out on the street to watch others do donuts, to believe they can control the police by putting their bodies in front of a car. This black letter law, of course, was not developed to address this scenario. It was neither understood nor anticipated that the law would be used in this fashion, as a means not to protect human life, but to thwart the cops in the performance of their duty.

But driving a car into a crowd of people, even blithering idiots who believe they are entitled to control a cop and his car by blocking its movement, is still a use of deadly force. This can only be lawfully justified in defense of force, not because of annoyance or insult.

What was the cop to do? That’s the question. No doubt there are a multitude of answers to this question, depending on external factors (why not call for backup, 100 cops to clear the street and free the car?). Then again, what if the cop announced over the bullhorn that he was going to inch forward and anyone refusing to move out of the way would be run over, exhorting them to move to no one was harmed? What if they refused to move? “Go ahead, run me down,” some cried, so he did?

Was the officer in fear of his life? It doesn’t appear to be the case, and even if he believes it, it doesn’t appear factually justified. This just didn’t involve any apparent threat of death or serious injury. Granted, allowing a crowd on the street to seize control of his movement is enraging, both to society beyond the mentality of protesters and to a cop, who is likely to be of the view that he gets to control them rather than the other way around.

But what no one can do, whether cop or not, is plow into a crowd of people, no matter how brazen, childish or stupid, and run them down. The video suggests that the cop involved snapped. He decided he was going to run them down and he did. He made no effort to mitigate the harm; he backed up, revved the engine (which might have been meant as a warning) and then hit the gas. Whoever was in the way, well, tough on them.

This was a crime. Even though the people run down were also wrong, and too moronic for words, they do not deserve to die for being idiots. This is unsatisfying, as it provides no answers to how a society can function when anarchy by a few can stymie governmental function, but running over people is not a lawful or viable solution. What a friggin’ mess.

38 thoughts on “Tacoma Run Down

  1. Thomas Johnson

    What if the whole thing was another insurance fraud case cooked up by the cop and the guy with the bruised leg?

    I hate to start the thread off being snarky. Scott has one of the best blog going, but i know before reading past the title, he is favoring the perp over the cop.

    [Ed. Note: I combined your comments. You don’t get two threads.]

  2. Andrew

    Everybody who drives a car needs an exit strategy for a malicious, but not immediately deadly, crowd forcibly detaining them and attempting to break in to their vehicle. He could have left that scene without gunning it. As a bonus in some people’s thinking, (based on the behavior of previous mobs we’ve seen) he might’ve been as or almost as likely to run over and kill one or more of the mob even driving away in an eminently reasonable manner.

      1. John Barleycorn

        Pro Tip: And to “exist”, in the end, is in fact an existential typo, wherein the best strategy is to ponder the exit thenceforth before forward frowns upon the fear.

          1. John Barleycorn

            Typo? Have you not been paying attention?

            The “Exist Strategy” is an up-and-coming-thing, I already booked the conference rooms after having a vision.

            The Qanon folks are gonna be there. Don’t be square!

            Besides, tickets for the introductory, The Answers are Obvious seminars, are only gonna be 99 bucks and that will include some pamphlets to share with the lawyers in your life and a cool bag of swag merchandise.

            P.S. If your Twitter feed needs more traffic I am selling footnote citations in the workbooks. Only 25K a pop.

      2. Andrew

        With the caveat that there is no such thing as complete safety, there are certainly safer exit strategies than to have no plan available and either panicking or throwing yourself on the mercy of the mob. It is different for random drivers in that they have a greater ability to be elsewhere than cops dispatched to an event. Once they are in the middle of the ruckus though, I’d say it depends on the individual circumstances.

        1. SHG Post author

          Yeah, that’s the problem with making assertions like “everybody needs a safe exist strategy.”

          “Great idea. Like what?”

          You got nothing. Thanks for playing.

          1. Andrew

            You have my email. If you’re asking me for advice as to what to do if you find yourself trapped like that, feel free to email me, I’ll set up a secure communication and tell you (for free) how I’d to exit that situation. I’m not discussing it on your blog. I apologize for wasting your time with overly generic advice.

            1. Andrew

              This is personal for you Scott, you can do whatever you want with it. I remembered why I quit responding to your blog posts years ago. You’re an asshole. I’m going to help myself and you both by deleting your webpage from from my bookmarks and unfollowing you on twitter. I’m sure a successful guy like you doesn’t need any more readers, followers, or sycophants, but you might someday have just one more friend in a place when and where you need a helping hand if you take that giant fucking chip off your shoulder.

            2. Ron

              Dude,

              You make an empty, simplistic public comment, are asked to back it up and whine like a little bitch about it. The only problem I have is that you’re too much of a pussy to use your full name so we all know who the asshole with the chip on his shoulder is. That way, when we need some help wherever you are, we know to avoid you because you’re worthless piece of shit.

              Hey, SHG, since he made a point about you having his email, maybe you should post it?

            3. SHG Post author

              Nope. If Andrew wants to reveal his identity, that’s up to him. Maybe he does, if he believes himself the maligned party here and that he’s the hero of his story. But that’s his call. I don’t snitch.

  3. B. McLeod

    Well, it only remains to pin down the objective facts, and then the well-informed courts can use the staff of law to pass out the appropriate beating to each of the participants.

  4. delurking

    What we really need to know before we can decide is if the people in the street were out protesting injustice or defending illegal street racing.

      1. delurking

        Sorry, I misspoke.
        Not about the “we”; that refers to all reasonable people.
        I meant “attacks on federal buildings” in place of “street racing”.

  5. Drew Conlin

    It seems to me that when persons participate in situations where a disregard for authority is evident ; things might get bad.
    There’s no guarantee that anyone including symbols of order and authority are going to act accordingly in normal ( if there is such a thing)situations maybe less so in the scene in Tacoma.
    It’s terrible to see people hurt. It makes no sense but being there makes it a lot more likely.

    1. SHG Post author

      It’s foolish, inter alia, to put oneself in the position. That doesn’t make it less wrong and criminal for the cop to act upon it.

  6. Jake

    I’d throw some of the standard ‘solutions’ up against the wall but, dare I admit, I’m tired of hearing myself. How about we all just start treating each other like human beings again?

  7. SM

    People have a right to defend themselves against criminals. Cops can be fired if you think that they did so without proper regard for the criminals. I can understand firing this man, but criminal charges are not about saying someone isn’t a good cop, but about saying someone doesn’t measure up to a much lower standard.

    1. SHG Post author

      You’re obviously not a lawyer, but lest you be unclear, cops can’t commit crimes any more than anyone else. Now go away.

      1. Skink

        Someone around this here place keeps saying it’s up to us lawyers to educate non-lawyers. At minimum, you should have provided SM with directions to the nearest exit.

      2. KP

        “cops can’t commit crimes any more than anyone else.”
        ..although it seems they can generally get away with murder. Actually, I’m quite sure cops CAN and do commit crimes more than average, they have an incentive to get a conviction that easily leads to false evidence one way or another, while the general public have no such incentive to lie. Being the arbiters of truth they just don’t get discovered at the same rate.

        As for stepping out in front of a car, its the same as stepping out in front of a train or a trucks, some version of vehicular suicide that everyone can comprehend beforehand. I can’t why anyone could have sympathy for those involved.

  8. Scarlet Pimpernel

    “What a friggin’ mess.”
    Yes it is and it only seems to be getting messier. Situations like this keep coming up where neither side is worth backing and we are left to parse which side is the bigger a-holes.

    My sympathies tend to be with the crowd since, for the most part, what I saw was a bunch of kids being young and stupid. Seeing them more as having fallen prey to the media BS that has been glorifying riots, destruction and disorder, than criminal masterminds. However, there is definitely something seriously and fundamentally wrong with adults, even young ones, attempting to use fear and intimidation to imprison(restrain) a police officer. Basically this means that, to me, on the a-hole scale the cop may have achieved a significantly higher ranking since he was willing to kill without a true threat on his life, but the crowd is also fairly high on a-holes scale.

  9. MelK

    Is there a safe exit strategy? Answer me first: was there a safe entry strategy in the first place? Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.

    100 people in the middle of the road and street racers. Was the Tacoma PD’s whole plan “let’s send one car out there to solve things”? Did the Officer fumble, foiling Captain P.R.’s clever plan? We’ll never know, now.

    1. SHG Post author

      Your ability to find a fact-free take that’s invariably monumentally dumb is impressive. I don’t know how you keep it up.

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